A 'Swenglish' journey through family photos, notes and postcards
from the early 20th century.


Chicago Then and Now - Sepia Saturday 636

... or, Time Travelling with Google ..

Besides the postcards sent by my great-aunt Gerda to her brother Gustaf, I also have a postcard album with Christmas/New Year/Easter greetings sent to Gerda, while she was living in Chicago, c. 1903-1910. The most useful information they've provided me with so far is that they show how during her first years in the big city, Gerda moved around quite a lot, before (in 1906) she ended up working in the household of a rather prominent Chicago family at 3328 Michigan Avenue, where she then seems to have remained until she went back to Sweden in 1911. 

I decided to have a go at looking up the addresses in Google Street View, to see if any of those neighbourhoods still have some old buldings preserved.

To sum up, the streets are still there, but most of the houses from back then are probably long gone. And house numbers may have changed in some places as well. However, what the Street View exercise did give me was a general impression of how Chicago was and still is a city consisting  of a 'grid' of very long and straight streets. Also confirmed by this street map from 1906 that I found somewhere (sorry, forgot to make note of where):

Map of Chicago from 1906

I was also quite surprised to find population statistics informing me that in 1900, Chicago already had around 1.7 million inhabitants, in 1910 increased to 2.2 million - to be compared to around 2.7 million in 2020. (Seems the number has been even higher in between, though.) For Gerda, having grown up on a farm in the Swedish countryside, coming to Chicago as a young girl in 1902/03, 21 years old, it must have been rather overwhelming. 

6019 Morgan St - January 1903

6017 Morgan St

(Actually, I think some of the houses here do rather look like they may have been around since the beginning of the 20th century!)

35 Elaine Pl - April 1903

Elaine Place

I can't find a number as low as '35' for Elaine Place nowadays. This modern apartment building kept coming up in my searches, though.

Elaine Place is the only one of Gerda's addresses with a c/o name added - Deutsche. I took a chance and had a peek at the surname in the 1900 US Census. Only one family by that name in Chicago came up for that year. I don't currently have a subscription allowing me to view details, but I'll assume for now that these were Gerda's employers in 1903. Husband Wm (William, I presume), wife Harriott (I looked up the name and it's of German origin  - related to the name Harriet, and meaning 'home ruler'), and son Richard.

1240 Addison Ave - year unknown (1904?)

1240 W Addison St

Well,this building obviously has not been there since 1904... I was hoping to find out if maybe the church has, but so far no luck.

W Addison St - Holy Trinity Church

1831 Barry Ave - January 1905

Now, that's weird... Looks like someone cast an invisibilty spell on that house! (lol)
(Below:) Looking straight on further down that street: 

1619 N. Campbell Ave -  Dec 1906
(forwarded to 3328 Michigan Ave)

1619 N Campbell Ave 

Well, I can see why Gerda wouldn't want to stay for very long there... (lol)

3328 Michigan Avenue

Disappointingly, the modern street view of 3328 Michigan Avenue doesn't really give a clue what it may have looked like back in 1906-10. Nowadays it seems to be part of a large university campus area.

Because (back in 2012) I found Gerda in the 1910 US census, I know that her employers at 3328 Michigan Avenue were Otto L Schmidt with wife Emma, both of German heritage; and with three children in their teens. At the time of the census there were three more white female servants besides Gerda in the household, plus a 'mulatto' chauffeur with wife and two children. I also know that Otto L Schmidt was a physician and a prominent Chicago citizen. Some day I may go back to revise some old posts involving them, and try to sum up what I know about them. 

Meanwhile, here is a photo of Gerda with two other girls. Judging by hairstyles and fashion, I think the photo must be from her years in Chicago. I don't recognise any of the other two.

Gerda in the middle

I found some vintage Chicago street views on other websites:

Michigan Avenue, looking south, Chicago, Illinois, 1900

1902 Michigan Ave and Art Institute Museum

View of Monroe Street,
west from Michigan Avenue, 1904

1905 Chicago Lake Shore Drive

1900 Madison Street Trolley Cars

1900 Chicago 'L' Elevated Subway Train on Wabash Street

1907 Concert in Lincoln Park

1905 Chicago River/State Street Bridge


... in spite of problems thinking of a clever connection to the prompt this week!


Girl On A Chair - Sepia Saturday 635

For this week's Sepia Saturday, I decided to just browse through my grandmother Sally's old albums in search of a Girl On A Chair.

Alas there are no childhood photos of Sally, but I found this studio photo of her and her sister Hildur in their youth. I think Sally (born 1900) must be around 20 here - and Hildur in that case 28. It's Sally sitting on the chair, and Hildur standing.


While pondering when the photo might have been taken, it occurred to me that it reminded me of another studio portrait with these two sisters together with their older (half/step) sister Gerda, that I presented back in February this year, in a post entitled The Homecoming - dating that photo to 1919, in connection with Gerda's return to Sweden after having spent the WW1 years in France.

Photographer: Emil Svensson, Fristad

My initial thought was primarily to check the length of their skirts - but on closer inspection, it struck me that the studio background, and even the chair, is the same in both photos too. Which means that the portrait of Sally and Hildur was taken in the same studio - and no doubt also by the same photographer (as I doubt the business of a village photographer would have been large enough to also support an assistant). 

The photo of Sally and Hildur is printed on 'postcard' paper, which suggests to me that they may have ordered copies of it to give/send to family and friends. Besides perhaps Christmas, I'm thinking that another occasion might have been Sally's 20th birthday (3 February, 1920). 

Not sure how much turning 20 was thought of as a special occasion back then, though; as the age of majority for unmarried women at the time was 21. From 1921, it was extended to also include married women, who until then had been in the guardianship of their husbands. 1921 was also the first time that women in Sweden were allowed to vote in general elections. Alas, I have no idea how my grandmother Sally felt about this. I never heard her talk about that  - and back in my own youth, I never thought to ask! (I'm thinking about it now, though, as we happen have an  election coming up again in three weeks.)


Gerda's Medal - Sepia Saturday 634

The last photos of my grandmother's sister Gerda that I have are these two below, with her wearing a 'royal' medal. I was hoping to find out when she was awarded it, and for what - but that turned out not all easy. There is a register of medals that one can search on the Swedish Royal Court's website - but her name does not turn up there. 

However, I decided to apply the advice repeatedly given by Alan Burnett (host of Sepia Saturdays): Looking for 'time markers' to try and date the photo and occasion.

1. The photos were taken in my grandparents' living room. I recognise the chair Gerda is sitting in, and also the cupboard behind her. Moreover, I happen to know that my grandfather got that chair for his 50th birthday - which was 23 June, 1954. So that would be the earliest possible date for this photo.

2. Because of the where, I also feel sure that the photo was taken by my grandfather, who was a journalist and an experienced photographer. But as in later year's he suffered from Parkinson's disease (and died in the spring of 1969), I'd say the photo was taken before the mid 1960s. 

3. Using a magnifying glass with the original photo, I  can establish that the text on the front of the medal says Gustaf VI Adolf - Sveriges konung (king of Sweden). He became king in October 1950, after his father, Gustaf V passed away. This means that Gerda must have received the medal after 1950. As I don't have the medal itself, I don't know what the text on the back said. 

4. Gerda was born 25 October 1881. If she was given (or wearing) the medal in connection with a special birthday, it's likely to have been for her 75th (1956) or her 80th (1961). 

5. I recently got confirmed from a reliable source that Gerda did get employed as lady's maid to Estelle Bernadotte in the autumn of 1928 - after Folke and Estelle got engaged, and before their wedding. (Just as I have been guessing all along, but haven't known for sure.) 

6. There is a medal for 'Zealous and Devoted Service of the Realm' (Swedish: 'För nit och redlighet i rikets tjänst') - awarded to one who has been a Swedish State employee for 30 years and has shown "zealous and devoted service". If this was the medal that Gerda was awarded, it ought to have been in 1958. The problem is that I don't think that Gerda, employed by Folke and Estelle Bernadotte, would count as "state employee".  Moreover, the top of that medal is different, and I haven't seen any images of it with a neck ribbon like in Gerda's photo.


7. However - I also found a similar medal from a 'Royal Society' called [Kungliga Sällskapet] Pro Patria - a charity society that has also given out medals. Between 1836-2005, there was a medal for 'Fidelity and Diligence' (Trohet och Flit) that could be awarded to someone who had been serving the same employer/family for a long time. (At least 25 years for the bigger size medal.) This medal was paid for by 'the one who applied for it' - which I take to mean the employer/family. I also found images showing that the front of this medal seems to match the one Gerda is wearing, and also seems to come with a ribbon to be worn around one's neck.

8. If Gerda was awarded this medal after 25 years of service, it would have been in 1953 - in which case the earliest possible date for the photo would still be my grandfather's 50th birthday in 1954. I'm leaning towards the idea that she was awarded it after 30 years of service, though - in which case the photo could be from 1958. Her "showing off" the medal when visiting my grandparents seems to suggest to me that the visit happened not too long after she recently received it - and that she was in focus, rather than either one of my grandparents.  I guess other prossible occasions could also still be her 75th or 80th birthday, though (1956 or 1961).

"Digging through old photographs, looking for clues as to place, time or person, sifting for details that will illuminate a story - lovers of old photographs are a bit like archeologists - dealing with pictures rather than places."
(Alan Burnett on this week's Sepia Saturday)


De sista foton jag har av min farmors syster Gerda är dessa två, där hon bär en 'kunglig' medalj. Jag hade hoppats kunna fastställa vilket år hon fick den, och av vilken anledning – men det visade sig svårt. På hovets hemsida finns ett register där man kan söka medalj- och ordensförläningar, men hennes namn ger inget utslag där.

Så istället försöker jag nu bara tillämpa allmänna råd från Alan Burnett (värd för Sepia Saturday) om att titta efter 'tidsmarkeringar' när det gäller att datera gamla foton.

1. Fotona är tagna i mina farföräldrars vardagsrum. Jag känner igen stolen Gerda sitter i, och även skåpet bakom henne. Dessutom råkar jag veta att min farfar fick den stolen på sin 50-årsdag, 23 juni 1954. Vilket betyder att det är tidigaste möjliga datum för fotona.

2. På grund av var fotona är tagna utgår jag från att det också är min farfar som är fotografen. Han var journalist och även en erfaren fotograf. Men då han mot slutet av sitt liv led av Parkinsons sjukdom, och dog våren 1969, så skulle jag säga att dessa foton togs senast i början av 1960-talet.

3. Genom att titta på originalfotot med förstoringsglas kan jag se att texten på medaljens framsida lyder ”Gustaf VI Adolf – Sveriges konung”. Gustaf VI Adolf tillträdde som konung i oktober 1950, efter att hans far, Gustav V, gått bort. Det betyder att Gerda måste ha fått medaljen efter 1950. Eftersom jag inte har själva medaljen så vet jag dock inte vad som stod på baksidan.

4. Gerda var född 25 oktober 1881. Om hon fick (eller bar) medaljen i samband med en speciell födelsedag, så bör det ha varit när hon fyllde 75 (1956) eller 80 (1961).

5. Jag har nyligen fått bekräftat från säker källa att Gerda anställdes som kammarjungfru till Estelle Bernadotte hösten 1928 – efter hennes och Folkes förlovning, men före bröllopet. (Detta har jag tidigare också antagit, men inte vetat säkert.)

6. Det finns en medalj ”För nit och redlighet i rikets tjänst” som tilldelas den som varit statligt anställd i 30 år. Om detta var den medalj Gerda fick, så borde hon ha fått den 1958. Problemet är att jag inte tror att Gerda, som anställd av Folke och Estelle Bernadotte, räknades som ”statligt” anställd. Dessutom stämmer inte riktigt utformningen av överdelen av medaljen (kronan) med bilder av den medaljen jag hittat online – och jag har heller inte sett den med ett sådant halsband som på fotot av Gerda.

7. Det finns emellertid också en liknande medalj från ”Kungliga Sällskapet Pro Patria”; ett sällskap som förutom att bedriva välgörenhet också har delat ut medaljer. Mellan 1836-2005 fanns det en medalj för ”Trohet och Flit” som kunde tilldelas någon som hade tjänat samma arbetsgivare eller familj under en lång tid. (Minst 25 år för den större storleken.) Denna medalj ”delades ut mot en kostnad för den som gjort ansökan” - vilket jag tolkar som att det var arbetsgivaren/familjen som gjorde en sådan ansökan. Jag fann också bilder som visar att framsidan på denna medalj ser ut att matcha Gerdas, och även att den verkar ha haft ett sådant band att ha runt halsen.

8. Om Gerda tilldelades denna medalj efter 25 års tjänst, så bör det har varit 1953. I så fall är tidigast möjliga datum för fotot fortfarande min farfars 50-årsdag 1954. Jag lutar dock åt att hon ändå fick medaljen efter 30 år (då hon skulle ha förärats en liknande om hon varit statligt anställd). I så fall kan fotot vara från 1958. Att hon ”visar upp” medaljen vid besök hos mina farföräldrar tänker jag tyder på att besöket sker inte långt efter att hon fått den - och att det var hon själv som var i fokus snarare än min farfar eller farmor. Men andra möjliga tillfällen att ståta med medalj skulle väl fortfarande också kunna vara Gerdas egen 75- eller 80-års dag (1956 eller 1961).


Greetings from Jekyll Island (1937) - Sepia Saturday 633

The Jekyll Island Club Golf Course, 12th Green
Jekyll Island, Georgia

To: Mr Gustav Samuelson, Storegården, Fristad, Sweden
From: Gerda (Brunswick, GA, Feb 6, 1937

Sänder dig hjärtligaste hälsningar från denna ön. Det är ganska tyst och lugnt här, men ej fullt så mycke som det ser ut på kortet. Det har varit varmt och skönt emellanåt så man kan bada. Skrev brev för ej länge sedan. Vi mår alla bra, hoppas du gör det [också]. Kommer nog hem --- i mars. /Gerda

Sending you warm greetings from this island. It's rather still and quiet here, but not quite as much as it may seem from the card. I wrote a letter not long ago. We are all well, hope you are too. Will probably be home in March.

The Jekyll Island Club, Beach at Low Tide
Jekyll Island, Georgia - d. 17 - 2 - 37



To: Mrs Selma Emanuelson, Nysäter, Fristad, Sweden
From: Gerda (Brunswick, GA, Feb 18, 1937)

Nu har vi varit här i 5 veckor och solat, och nästa vecka reser vi hem till Sverige igen. Vi mår alla bra, hoppas att ni gör detsamma. Hjärtliga hälsningar till Er samtl. från Gerda

Now we have been here for 5 weeks sunbathing, and next week we'll be going back home to Sweden again. We are all well, hope that you all are too. Love to you all from Gerda.

Note: This card was sent to Gerda's step-mother Selma (now living with her daughter Sally - my grandmother - and her family). Unlike the cards Gerda sent to her brother, the few cards I have that were sent to Selma have been allowed to keep their stamps!

Working hard for the family dinner in Dixieland - S.430

Series No. S-313 C.T. Southern Pickaninny* Scenes
"C.T. Art Colortone" Reg. US. Pat. Off.
Made only by Curt Teich & Co., Inc., Chicago

I'm having problems finding a genographical definition of Dixieland - wondering if any of my American readers can help me? (Google only givs me references to music!)

* Pickaninny - a 'Pidgin English word for a small child or racist caricature'
"Pickaninny (also picaninny, piccaninny or pickinninie) is a word applied originally by people of the West Indies to their babies and more widely referring to small children --- derived from the Portuguese pequenino ("very small"). --- In contrast to this neutral meaning, the word has been used in North America as a racial slur referring to a dark-skinned child of African descent." [Wikipedia]

To: Herr Gustav Samuelsson, Storegåren, Fristad, Sweden
From : Gerda (Brunswick, GA, Feb 18, 1937)

Om en vecka reser vi härifrån, den 26 lemnar vi New York med Europa, omkring den 8 mars är vi nog hemma igen tänker jag. Vi mår alla bra. K. hälsningar, Gerda.

In a week we'll be leaving here, on the 26th we're leaving from New York with the Europa, around March 8th we should be back home again I think. We're all well. Love, Gerda

Turbinen-Schnelldampfer "Europa"

To: Herr Gustav Samuelson, Fristad, Storegården, Schweden
From: Gerda (sent from Bremen, Germany, March 5, 1937) 

Europa den 4-3.37
Vi är nu snart framme och resan har gått mycke bra och vi mår alla gott. Söndag e.m. kl 4 är vi i Stockholm. Kära hälsningar, Gerda

Aboard "Europa" - March 4, 1937
We will soon be arriving [in Germany]. The journey has gone well and we are all feeling fine. On Sunday at 4 pm we'll be in Stockholm. Love, Gerda


"JEDER Volksgenosse Rundfunkhören"
"EVERY fellow countryman, listen to the radio"

Trying to find some info about this German additional stamp/cancellation on the postcard, I landed on a website belonging to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (ushmm.org), where I found this photo, with the text: "Germans listen to an antisemitic speech by Hitler. Josef Goebbels, minister of propaganda, encouraged every family to acquire a radio. Germany, January 30, 1937."


Försök att finna mer information om den extra poststämpeln på det sista vykortet, "JEDER Volksgenosse Rundfunkhören" – en uppmaning till alla tyska medborgare att lyssna på radio - ledde mig till en webb-sida från ett amerikanskt Minnesmuseum över Förintelsen, där jag fann detta foto med texten: ”Tyskar lyssnande till ett antisemitiskt tal av Hitler. Josef Goebbels, propagandaminister, uppmuntrade varje familj att skaffa en radio. Tyskland, 30 januari 1937.”

Apart from two postcards from the coronation of king George IV in England, which I already used for Sepia Saturday 624, the ones in this post are the last postcards written by Gerda that I have. As we all know (and as that appeal - or order - to all Germans to listen to their leaders on the radio remind us), the outbreak of World War II is now only a couple of years away. How much (if at all) the Bernadottes continued to travel abroad as a family during the war years, I don't know. And with Folke Bernadotte gradually getting more and more involved in various diplomatic and war-related affairs, I can also imagine Gerda getting even more cautious than usual about even giving hints about their whereabouts on postcards. 

The story of Gerda's life doesn't stop with the postcards, of course. I just have less details from the later years. She kept on working for the Bernadottes throughout WWII and beyond. After Folke Bernadotte was tragically assassinated in Jerusalem in 1948, she still remained living with Estelle at their home in Stockholm, Dragongården, way past normal retirement age - I think nearly all her life. She lived to be nearly 92 years old. Estelle later got remarried - but not until the same year that Gerda died (1973). 

There may well be some more posts about Gerda to come; I'm just not quite sure yet how to continue. But besides maybe some glimpses and speculations from later years, I've been thinking of going back and take another look at her early years as a maid in Chicago. While I probably can't dig up any more cards written by her, I do have one album of Christmas and Easter greetings written to her saved from those years. Most of them don't have much written on them, but there may be exceptions. And there are also some unwritten cards that I might be able to connect to things I've found out from the written ones along the way. 
In between, I may also try to sum up what I know about some of the other siblings and their families; including my own grandparents. 

... lots of things still left to look into...

Dessa är de sista vykorten skrivna av Gerda som jag har; förutom två från kröningen av George IV i England (1937), som jag redan använt i ett tidigare inlägg (för Sepia Saturday 624). Som vi alla vet (och som poststämpeln på det sista kortet här påminner oss om), så är det nu bara ett par år kvar tills andra världskriget bryter ut. Hur mycket familjen Bernadotte (och Gerda) fortsatte att resa utomlands tillsammans som familj under kringsåren vet jag inte. Men då Folke Bernadotte blev allt mer involverad i diplomatska och krigsrelaterade uppdrag, föreställer jag mig att Gerda kanske antagligen också blev ännu mer försiktig än vanligt med att röja via vykort ens var de befann sig för tillfället. (Hon hade ju också viss erfarenhet av postcensur från sina år i Frankrike under första världskriget.) 

Gerdas livshistoria upphör förstås inte med vykorten – jag har bara inte så mycket detaljer från de senare åren. Hon fortsatte att arbeta för familjen Bernadotte under krigsåren, och betydligt längre än så. Efter det tragiska mordet på Folke Bernadotte i Jerusalem 1948, blev hon kvar hos Estelle Bernadotte på Dragongården mer eller mindre livet ut, eller i alla fall långt efter normal pensionsålder. Hon blev nära 92 år gammal. Estelle gifte så småningom om sig – men inte förrän samma år som Gerda dog, 1973.

Det kan mycket väl bli fler blogginlägg om Gerda – jag är just nu bara lite osäker på hur jag bäst kan ”sy ihop” hennes historia. Förutom en del glimtar (och spekulationer) kring de senare åren, så kommer jag antagligen också att gå tillbaka och titta lite mer på hennes tidiga år i Chicago. Även om jag inte har fler vykort skrivna av henne, så har jag ett album med jul- och påsk-hälsningar (och liknande) skickade till henne, från de åren. De flesta av dem mycket kortfattade, men det kan finnas undantag. Därutöver har jag också ett antal oskrivna vykort som hon sparat, och som jag kanske nu bättre kan relatera till de skrivna kort jag gått igenom.